Chair of Development Economics
Demographic Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa

Demographic Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa

Why Has the Demographic Transition Stalled in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Almost all developing countries have entered the demographic transition, i.e. mortality rates are declining, and fertility rates are following, usually with some delay. Eventually, so the assumption, most countries will settle at a fertility level that just ensures replacement. It was believed that this pattern will also apply to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). And indeed, mortality rates are declining almost everywhere, despite the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other serious health issues, and fertility has started to decline. Yet, in some countries the drop in fertility recently came to a halt or even was reversed again. The literature is divided over how a “fertility stall” should be defined and data issues make it not always easy to identify such cases, but for some countries there is little doubt that the fertility transition has lost its momentum. The demographic literature associates with such fertility stalls a decline in the age of marriage or the limited access to contraceptives, but such changes are obviously endogenous to the problem. There is little rigorous analysis about the true underlying causes for such fertility stalls. This project tries to bring more economics into the debate and to broaden the set of potential determinants. We will use all Demographic and Health Surveys available for SSA and combine them with data from household income surveys and other secondary information capturing economic transformations and structural change in more detail.

This project is joint work by Isabel Günther, Kenneth Harttgen (both ETH Zürich), Stephan Klasen (University of Göttingen), Nicolas Büttern and Michael Grimm (both University of Passau).

A related project also includes an analysis of the determinants of the fertility transition in the US using historical data for the 19th and early 20th century (by Michael Grimm).   


M. Grimm (2016), Rainfall risk, fertility and development: Evidence from farm settlements during the American demographic transition. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10351, Bonn, IZA. New version: Ruhr Economic Papers #718, RWI – Leibniz. 

Related literature

Why Has the Demographic Transition Stalled in Sub-Saharan Africa?

A Re-examination of Recent Fertility Declines in Sub-Saharan Africa

Situations of fertility stall in sub-Saharan Africa (by Michele Garenne)

Fertility Transition: Is sub-Saharan Africa Different? (by John Bongaarts and John Casterline)

Stalls in Fertility Transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa: Real or Spurious? (by Bruno Schoumaker)